Strikes carried out by border force staff are set to cause disruption across some of the UK’s most popular airports. The decision was announced by the PCS union in a bid to challenge the government over unsatisfactory pay and working conditions.

Festive travel stress

The Public and Commercial Services Union represent those working on government contracts in the public, commercial and private sectors. The union confirmed that border force strikes would occur at Heathrow Airport, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff Airports from 23rd – 26th December and again from 28th – 31st December. This means that hundreds of thousands of those planning to fly from these airports during the Christmas period will likely face some obstacles. For some, this will be the first time they have attempted to travel to see family since the beginning of Covid, and so will be sure to cause a level of stress.

Passengers queue at an airport
Passengers face disruption over the Christmas period | © Getty Images

Enough is enough

Despite the announcement arriving on the same day that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticised “unreasonable unions” and promised to enforce “new tough laws” regarding strike action, the union members have remained firm in their stance. 86% of PCS balloted were in favour of industrial action across 124 government departments.

Their resistance comes after those in public sectors, such as Border Force staff, who worked with high intensity and close proximity to the public throughout the pandemic, only to receive a maximum offer of a 2% pay increase. Thus, the strike dates were revealed after 100,000 PCS members voted to support the union’s demands. As well as a 10% rise, union members want job security, pensions, and no cuts to redundancy terms.

With the situation in dire condition, PCS general secretary Matt Serwotka was unapologetic about the union’s decision and has placed the blame on the Prime Minister and his MPs. He stated, “This strike would not happen if Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt paid their staff so they can put food on the table.” He went on to say, “We have no option but to take industrial action because our members are using food banks and not able to switch on the heating right now.”

Does the end justify the means?

In response to the industrial action, the government have provided between 3-5 days of training to members of the armed forces whom they intend to cover for Border Force staff. Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, has condemned the action calling it “unjustifiable”.

Passengers queue at Border Control - Border Force strikes are set to cause chaos for travellers over the Christmas period
Members of the armed forces are expected to cover for Border Force Staff | © Getty Images/Oli Scarff

Passengers can expect severe disruptions and delays during these days as staff at Manchester Airport have acknowledged that the strikes could lead to cancelled flights. Some airlines may need to cancel services in order to ensure that the lower numbers of Border Force are manageable.

However, one spokesperson from Gatwick Airport said, “We are disappointed that Border Force staff have decided to take strike action at this particular time.” They then went on to say, “We expect that flights will operate as normal and remain in regular contact with Border Force about their mitigation plans. Additional airport staff will also be available to help with passenger welfare on strike days.”

Passengers are encouraged to check their airlines for any updates regarding the effects of the action in the lead-up to the strike period.

Do you think that the planned border force strikes are justifiable? Let us know in the comments.

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